Search and Rescue
Coast Guard Aviation is a Calling.
Coast Guard Aviation has multi- mission responsibilities and performs them all very well but it is the Search and Rescue mission that defines Coast Guard Aviation. The aircrews have known the fist of fear and a mouth so dry it was hard to talk. They also have experienced the elation that comes with the knowledge that they have saved a person’s life. It transcends. They take justifiable pride in what they are able to accomplish and are humbled by what they could not. There is an aura of camaraderie and dedication.
These accounts represent only a few the heroic efforts shown by Coast Guard men and women who respond to the call.
On March 7, 1967 UF-2G CGNR 1240 apparently met with disaster and after extensive searches was never found. The bodies of 3 of the 6 crew members aboard were never found. Recently, in July 2006, a charter boat stumbled across the wreckage of something unknown at the time. The Association of Underwater Explorers went to the wreckage and photographed the site in 60 feet of water – see the article for information and photos.
A U.S. Coast Guard PBM-5 seaplane CGNR 59012 had the left wing float and five feet of the left wing tip were torn away during a night JATO lift off from rough open ocean waters medivac. Pilots MacDowell and Douglas flew the damaged aircraft back to home base. They made a successful night water landing ending the hazardous rescue mission of April 7 – 8, 1948.
I’ll always remember “Big John” as we TransPac-ed PBM-5G No. 84738 together, worked and flew together, and were off Swatow where No. 84738 crashed and sank. John later told me when he was swimming around in the cold dark Chinese waters and trying to signal the rescue destroyer, that he could hear the other PBM grinding around above the overcast and dropping the parachute flares that lit up the area like daylight. I wonder what the local Chinese thought was going on that night.
The story of the La Conte is based on interviews with 11 Coast Guard helicopter flight crew members involved in the rescue; three members of the ground crew; Coast Guard spokesmen in Juneau, Alaska, and Martinsburg, W.Va.; the surviving crew members of the La Conte; Jesse Evans, who found the remains on Shuyak Island; the two Alaska state troopers who recovered the remains; and two forensics experts at the Alaska State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage.
As Hurricane Sandy approached land, the HMS Bounty and 16 sailors aboard were in dire need of help. More than 90 miles off the coast of Hatteras, N.C., the three-masted sailing vessel had lost power and was taking on water in an area mariners call the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” for its infamously treacherous seas. With its pumps failing, the Bounty’s crew was forced to abandon ship. Adrift in two liferafts, they were powerless against the raging seas.
On 1 July Scotch 3, an F-105 Thunderchief was hit by anti –aircraft fire. Lt. Col. Jack Modica, the pilot, thought he could stay airborne long enough to reach the Gulf.
Ocean Express, an unusual ocean going vessel, was, in reality, a movable offshore oil-drilling rig, in the form of a barge nearly 200 feet long and over 100 feet wide. Buildings on the barge’s deck provided offices and accommodation spaces for the 33 crew members working and living aboard. This is the story of its capsize during a storm and the rescue of the crew aboard.
This story appeared in “Alaska Magazine” in 1979 and was also featured in the Commandants’ Bulletin a couple of times. Recently a book, “Adak, the rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586” by Andrew Jampoler was published about the P-3 ditching and rescue effort which included CG 1500 out of Kodiak along with a
Russian fishing vessel.
Two days before Christmas 1955, a helicopter rescue took place that changed the direction of Coast Guard aviation occurred on the two days before Christmas 1955. This case firmly bonded the helicopter to the Coast Guard in the public’s mind and laid the groundwork for all future aircraft acquisitions. It took only one helicopter with a hoist and four very brave crewmen to change the future of CG aviation.
It may not be staggering to the average American or even Coast Guard Aviators today, but one must be mindful that this was the first ever major rescue for the helicopters in question and was to later create the climate wherein the Coast Guard became the prime user of helicopters for all types and kinds of rescue missions. Some of the aviators, whose images appear in these photos, went on to become the historic figures in helicopter rescue history and the development of the helicopter for mercy missions that continue day in and day out today.
In the relatively quiet, wee hours of the morning of 14 July 1960, Mr. E.R. Lizada was
on duty at the Manila Radio Station. Over the last hour, he had received several routine
reports from Northwest Airlines Flight 292, a Douglas DC-7 inbound to Manila from
Okinawa and Tokyo. All semblance of routine was shattered for Lizada at 0325 local
time when the following exchange of messages took place between himself and Captain
Dave Rall, pilot of Flight 292.
This narrative recounts the actions of AST1 Willard Milam as an individual, but the rescue, like so many others, displays the elements inherent in all rescues; Coast Guardsmen willing to put their lives on the line to save others. It is a first person account. It manifests the teamwork necessary to accomplish the mission and reveals the often unseen and true reward which is within. There is a uniqueness and bonding amongst Coast Guard aviation crewmembers that is difficult to understand unless you have been there. It transcends.
There is a special relationship between crewmembers which is unique to Coast Guard Aviation. Academically this could be identified as a shared mental model or mindset. In operational language, it is a culture of mutual respect and team mentality resulting in a successful mission in a high risk environment. There are many examples of aircrew competence and courage. I have chosen a few to represent the many.
The Albatross was designed for optimal 4 ft seas, and could land in more severe conditions. With JATO takeoffs could be made in 5- 9 ft. seas. There have been take-offs made without JATO that exceeded the 5 foot figure. With lives at stake there were numerous times when “possible” was substantially re-defined.
Late in the afternoon of April 16, 1950, William Strecker and Gus Detrick of Miami, FL made ready Strecker’s 35-foot cabin cruiser, Moonlight, for an evening of fishing. The most important thing Mr. Strecker did was to inform his wife of where they were going, and when they would return.
There were 11 Coast Guard Aviators that flew with these rescue forces in Vietnam between 1968 and 1972. They were all volunteers – they were all highly praised. The following relates a mission that involved two of these gentlemen and illustrates that if at all possible – No one was left behind.
This publication is the account of the efforts and successful rescue of survivors from the crash of a Sabena Airlines C-54 in Newfoundland near to Gander. The text is from official reports recently found in the office of the CG Historian, CG Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Demonstrating the quiet courage expected in a service which teaches its members that then “must go out but don’t have to come back”, six Coast Guard airmen had a harrowing experience when they abandoned a huge Hall Flying boat a few seconds before it capsized and later sank in 1,004 feet of water.
On the morning of November 1, 1979, the Burmah Agate, inbound to Galveston Bay with a full load of fuel, collided with the outbound freighter Mimosa just outside the entrance to the Galveston Bay Entrance Channel. The Mimosa struck the Burmah Agate on its starboard side, tearing a hole in the hull , and setting off an explosion that ignited the leaking oil. The tanker foundered, while the freighter remained under way, slowly circling about a dropped anchor.
A U.S. Coast Guard PBM-5 seaplane CGNR 59012 had the left wing float and five feet of the left wing tip were torn away during a night JATO lift off from rough open ocean waters medivac. Pilots...
I’ll always remember "Big John" as we TransPac-ed PBM-5G No. 84738 together, worked and flew together, and were off Swatow where No. 84738 crashed and sank. John later told me when he was...
On 1 July Scotch 3, an F-105 Thunderchief was hit by anti –aircraft fire. Lt. Col. Jack Modica, the pilot, thought he could stay airborne long enough to reach the Gulf....